RICHMOND -- The City Council will hold a special meeting Thursday night to set a Jan. 31 deadline for candidates to declare interest in the council seat vacated by Councilman-elect Gary Bell's health troubles.

The 7:30 p.m. meeting will be an opportunity for the council to establish the deadline and set a Feb. 4 special meeting to attempt to appoint a replacement for Bell, who remains hospitalized after falling into a coma following his Nov. 6 election with what his family has said is a severe sinus infection.

According to the city charter, the council has 60 days from the vacancy date to appoint a replacement by a majority vote. If no replacement can get four of the six council votes, a special election must be held June 4. City Clerk Diane Holmes has said an election may cost as much as $200,000.

According to state law, a special election must be called at least 114 days before voters go to the polls. A staff report said that gives the city until Feb. 10 to appoint a replacement for Bell or call for a special election.

"If the public meeting (to hear from candidates interested in the appointment) occurs on Feb. 4 and we appoint someone, we're done," the staff report read. "If not, then the Council will be able to approve a resolution calling for a June 4 special election the next day at our Feb. 5 meeting."

Three of the six council members have said they support progressive candidate Eduardo Martinez, who finished just behind Bell, as the replacement. But other council members have said Martinez is unacceptable because he is far different politically from Bell, who ran as a moderate and was heavily backed by Chevron Corp.


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Kathleen Sullivan, Don Gosney, Mike Ali-Kinney and Jael Myrick have announced their candidacies as well.

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers